My friend Blossom posted this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert to his blog today:
It’s impossible for me to summarize the talk (go watch it – it’s well worth nineteen minutes of your time), but it made me think about the Muse as I see her.
Let me start by saying that I was raised by a pair of atheistic research scientists. Â I went to college at a pre-eminent, highly focused science and engineering school, and I studied mathematics because I considered it more rigorous than the other sciences. Â Intellectualism and disbelief is in my blood.
And yet I have a strong personal relationship with the Muse, whom I believe is a representation of the Divine. Â Or rather, She is a way of connecting to the Divine. Â I don’t believe in theologies of the “do this, do Â that” sort, for a variety of reasons. Â (Not least of which is the sneaking suspicion that, really, God has better things to do.) Â I don’t believe in a Divine that answers prayers or interferes with people living in the world. Â I’ve not seen any convincing (to me) evidence for this, so I don’t believe in theologies.
What I doÂ believe is that there is a Divine, something which we can’t touch directly but which we connect to intuitively and emotionally. Â Love and beauty are facets of the Divine. Â Asking whether it is self-aware, for me, elicits the Zen “mu” (roughly translated, “wrong question”, a question that contains flawed assumptions and cannot be answered as posed). Â I don’t believe the Divine thinks the way that we think; if it is aware, it is an intuitive awareness, not a language-based, left-brain awareness. Â More to the point, I don’t think the question is relevant: if you have ever longed for beauty, or loved something intensely, you have touched the Divine. Â Theology is what we build around ourselves for human reasons, but the emotional, intuitive relationship is with the Divine. Â I can’t prove it, but I instinctively know it to be true.
So who is this Muse of mine? Â She is the divinity, the spirit that helps me connect with the Divine. Â Maybe she isÂ the connection to the Divine. Â She might be a construct of my head, she might be a real spirit – the distinction has never seemed relevant to me. Â It’s like trying to name and classify snowflakes – you can try, but why would you? Â You can’t classify joy.
Anyway, she’s my Muse, and while she (like all people) can be trying at times, I wouldn’t want to live without her. Â Sometimes she gets me up at 3am to draft patterns, because she thinks the middle of the night is a perfect time to be creating; other times, she takes four days off in the middle of a project, leaving me grinding mechanically away. Â Most days, though, she shows up, and we sit down and work together. Â We’ve been working together for most of my life, and we get along very well. Â I wouldn’t say she’s the primary laborer in this partnership (in case you hadn’t noticed, I do all of the typing!), but I couldn’t work without her, either.